Sunday, December 15, 2013

Prayers for My Daughter

Like any mother, I pray on a daily basis for my daughter. And like any mother, my gut prayer is for an all-encompassing protection of her life and safety. For some sort of promise from God that she will always be well cared for, well treated and well loved.  

But I know better 

I know that my God doesn't say IF you encounter trials, but instead...WHEN you encounter trials. He is guaranteeing that my beautiful, innocent daughter will someday grow up and experience the wrath, hatred, jealousy and evil this world has to offer. 

It is not a question of IF she will be hurt, mistreated and broken....but WHEN.  There will come a day when my daughter is down on her knees, broken from the weight of the world, from the devastation of life and the emptiness in her heart. And no amount of fervent prayers will protect her from those trials. 

So instead of setting myself up for disappointment and frustration with God (Why didn't you protect her? Were you not listening to me?), I must instead change my prayers. 

I have to pray for the inevitable. 

I must pray for her courage to walk head first into the unknown. I must pray for wisdom to guide her path and enlighten her heart...and even the wisdom to know when to walk away. I must pray for her strength - that she know the measure of her worth and the power of her voice. 

I must pray, not that she escapes the storms of life, but that she has the fortitude to withstand them. And more importantly, for her relationship with God so that she find sanctuary in his arms when the seas get rough. 

Saturday, November 9, 2013


My little Doc McStuffins ready to Trick or Treat.

She was fully engaged in the Halloween events this year - from the pumpkin patch with good friends to dressing up as her favorite Disney Junior character, Natalie totally GOT the whole concept this year.  And most importantly, I was there this year to experience the whole thing with her - not like last year when I was at a volleyball game.

We had a few of our coaching buddies and their kiddos come over for pizza before trick or treating around our neighborhood, which has quickly become a tradition in the past few years.  Our neighborhood has tons of young children and teenagers - it's the type of place where the parents sit out in the driveways with buckets of candy for the kids and an open cooler of beverages for the parents.

Following the big kids from house to house.

Digging into her candy haul at the end of the night.

Celebrating Halloween with her this year was just a glimpse into how much fun Christmas is going to be this year.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Perfection: A Series

The topic this week at Bible Study touched on a word that is near and dear to my heart. A word that encompasses both my greatest asset and my Achilles heel. Something that has created all my success but also catapulted me to the brink of self-destruction. 

Perfection....the pursuit of being perfect. 

Imagine my surprise as other members of my small group scoffed at the idea of striving for perfection. The idea of having everything in their life "just so" never occurred to me. 

It was like seeing a unicorn....a mystical creature I didn't think even existed. 

You mean, there are people in this world who don't feel the compulsion to straighten every tilted picture frame?  Or fold their underwear and keep their closets in impeccable (organized) order? Or who mentally flog themselves for the slightest imperfection on an email or assignment?

I was floored. I've lived this way for so long that up until a few years ago, I didn't know there was another option. 

The option to just be. 

To be messy, to be flustered, to enjoy the freedom of saying "I don't know exactly what I'm doing, but it's okay, I'll figure it out."  The peace that comes with rolling with life's experiences and chalking up a catastrophe to "a lesson learned."

In many coaching office chats with my dear friend, Shemika I discovered something about myself. My extreme and unwavering desire for perfection shut me off from the world. It created a persona that I was better than other people, that I had my act together and looked down upon those who didn't. And honestly, who would want to be friends with a person who seemed to be perfect, thus shedding light on your own obvious IMperfections? 

For all my painful self-examinations over the course of my life....I had never encountered that particular perspective. I had never had myself reflected back in such a way. 

When Shemika (kindly) pointed this persona out to me, my mouth hung open and I stuttered, "but you KNOW that I KNOW that I'm not perfect, right!" I desperately plead my case. "I have a terrible temper and I lose patience far too easily!  Sometimes I talk too much and can be self-centered!" 

Shemika smiled gently and began, "well, I know that, but..."

I didn't let her finish. "I'm not perfect! I CAN'T EVEN BAKE COOKIES OR KEEP A PLANT ALIVE!"

Then she laughed at me and gave me a hug while my shoulders fell in defeat. I knew she was right. I could see the reflection in the mirror she held up to me. 

For whatever reason, the face I show to the world isn't of gentle sweetness or kind gentility. It's cold and judgmental perfection.  And that is not the person I want to be. I want to display genuine and sincere authenticity. I want to celebrate my strengths through embracing weaknesses.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Lazy Weekend

It's been one of THOSE kinds of weekends. When everything seems to fall in place....the weather, the mood...the behavior of your toddler. 

It's just been a perfect two days. 

It all started on Friday night as Craig, Natalie and I headed up to the Varsity volleyball game and I was inundated with not one, or two but no less than 10 of my former students coming from across the gym to give hugs, sit down and catch up. This is when all the parent conferences, Saturday morning lesson planning and endless professional in-services pays off - when I can see and feel the impact I've had on kids....because they want to come back and see me. When they feel such a strong bond with me that they want to fill me in on their life since middle school. Forget the standardized testing, forget the school ratings....THIS is how I am judged ASAP teacher - by the lives I have touched and the students I have impacted. 

Saturday started out pretty lazy with some pancakes and cartoons, ending with my college roommate, Lauren and her husband and son coming over for appetizers, pizza, football and drinks. Although our evening ended at nine (instead of starting at 10:00!), there were great conversations, lots of laughs at two toddlers figuring each other out, and a certain coziness emanating through our home.  

Sunday has found us going grocery shopping, lazily decorating for Halloween, playing on the patio in the fabulous fall weather and now sitting on the couch, eating chips and dip while watching football.  

And although my lessons are ready to go, but my laundry is piling soul is calm and satisfied. This is why I quit that I could slow down my life and enjoy the littlest moments with my not-so-little girl.
"Momma!" She exclaimed, "We match!"

And speaking of that not-so-little girl, if you ask her, she is most certainly NOT a baby, but a BIG girl. She is a potty-trained, skinny jean wearing, imaginary playing, number counting....pre-schooler. 

And as I whispered in her ear last night as we prayed before bedtime, I am so glad she's mine. 

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Safe and Sound

I spent Saturday morning holding my godson, watching my daughter play with his older sister while I chatted with their mother, Kate.  

In a moment of freedom, Kate ran downstairs to grab milk and oranges for the girls while I snuggled Sam on the couch.  

While she was gone, I realized what had just happened and I teared up.

I had taken care of a little boy who wasn't mine by blood, or even by marriage.  Just the very special baby of a very special friend.  

He was offered to me to hold by his momma who needed a physical break to sit on the floor and play with her daughter and goddaughter.  While Kate engaged the girls with blocks and kitchen toys...and then broke up disagreements regarding ownership of said blocks and kitchen toys, Sam and I cuddled up and got comfortable.  

Quickly he realized that I was NOT Momma.  That newborn little face started to wrinkle up and his pink lips began to quiver.  

Oh no.

Please, no.

Don't cry little guy.  Don't wail.  I can't calm you down.  I can't do it.  I can't take care of a baby.  It will be embarrassing.  I will have to hand you over while I suffer through my anxiety attack.  People will wonder why I ever had a child to begin with.

But then something clicked.  He cried and I shushed.  He wailed and I bounced.  He calmed and I soothed.

And then he snuggled and slept.

And I cried.

Thank you, my dear godson.  Thank you for being you and trusting that I am capable of comforting and safe enough to snuggle.  

And thank you, my dear Kate for allowing me the honor of calling this precious child my godson.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

The Girl and the Chair

Dear Natalie,

This morning you balled up your fists tightly next to your skinny waist and yelled "NO" at me through a scrunched red face. As soon as your voice left your mouth, you got quiet and your eyes grew round. Stunned by the power of your own voice, the strength of your desires and the effect your words have on other people. 

I stood very still as I contemplated my next move. Discipline....yes. That needed to occur. But I had to steady my reeling emotions before I grasped you too hard or spoke too harshly. 

But within the anger and frustration that swelled in my throat, also resided a sense of accomplishment and pride. Because, you see, you were annoyed that I had foiled your plans by asking you to drag your chair back to the table in your playroom, when you were about to enact your clever scheme. 

I had placed the iPad just out of your reach on the bedroom bookshelf, in what surely must have appeared as an exciting challenge to you, instead of an impossible obstacle.  But you didn't just throw yourself on the ground in another toddler tantrum. No. You, my dear, saw the bigger picture and hatched a plan. You gathered your materials quietly and set your eyes on the prize. For this fact, I am deeply proud. 

I see a little girl emerging that has confidence in herself combined with cunning intelligence and little to no fear. This combination is wildly unpredictable, completely impossible to stop and sometimes even dangerous. 

I am more than okay with this. 

Because someday, honey, there will be a time when someone tells you, "you can't do that."  They will challenge your intelligence, doubt your capabilities and mistrust your intuition.  They will discourage you from grabbing that chair, they will insist that you will get hurt, or that they have a far superior plan.  

This is when I am begging you to ball up your fists and shout, "No!"  Give them that same determined glare you gave me this morning. The one that is frighteningly fierce and warns of impending doom if anyone were to get in your way. 

Then climb on the damn chair and leave them standing in your shadow. 

With love from your fellow chair climber, 

Friday, September 13, 2013

Teacher Style Week Three

Here we are at the end of the third week of school....which, if you're curious, has been the hardest one to date. Perhaps it was the end of the honeymoon period for the kids, or maybe it was the two tests I gave, but I am WIPED OUT. Our Friday night consisted of dinner at Chilis and taking in the varsity volleyball game. Craig is currently fighting the bedtime battle with Natalie and I'm not far behind. My DVR and cozy pillows are calling my name. 

But first, here is what I wore this week.  

Gray pants found on sale (buy one, get one free) at New York and Company outlet store. 
Purple ruffled tank bought a few years ago from Ann Taylor Loft outlet. 
Black sweater from Old Navy? Maybe? Not really sure...I've had it a LONG time. 
The shoes are chunky heeled, round toe patent leather with a fun stitched pattern - and actually fairly comfortable!
Necklace is from Charming Charlie's. 
Hair was down and straight. 

Ugh. Tuesday was rough. Natalie had been up and down all Monday night so this outfit was thrown together in a rush because I was dragging to get out of bed. 
White sweater from Ann Taylor outlet. 
Black pants bought full price (but totally worth it) from The Limited. 
The turquoise flats were actually my wedding shoes that I wore under my dress!
My necklace is from Charming Charlie's and my bangs were proofed and then pinned back. 

Skinny jeans from Old Navy. 
A Rangers Napoli shirt (shout out to my Grandma) from Dick's Sporting Goods. 
Black leather sandals from Old Navy. 
Hair is in an easy wet bun. 

Fun, fun fun! I loved this outfit because it was a little out of my comfort zone, but at the same made me feel pretty fabulous. 
Necklace from Charming Charlie's.
Pink shirt bought on sale at Ann Taylor Loft outlet. 
Skirt was $30 on clearance at White House,Black Market! And has pockets!
Spes bought two years ago at DSW. 
Hair was normal. 

I got three compliments on this shirt before the school day even officially got started!  Craig bought it for me for my birthday....from Anthropologie. I know. It was a splurge,but I absolutely adore it. It's a breezy material but with lots of fun designs and details. He did a great job picking it out. 

White camisole from Target, skinny jeans from Target and earrings from New York and Company. Instead of a boring old ponytail, I stole a look from my students and braided my bangs back and gathered them into my ponytail holder. It was easy but still something a little different from my normal look. 

So....I've realized that I have a minor addiction to Ann Taylor. And is it weird that I know exactly where I bout EVERY single item of my clothes?!

And do you like my designs on the photos? Check out the photo editing app called Rhonna Designs. It does cost a small amount, but it is GOOD. Better than Instagram and My Beautiful Mess. I bought it for free a few days ago through the Apps Gone Free app which features apps that normally cost something but are currently free through iTunes. Kind of like Groupon for apps. 

Alright. That's enough for tonight. It's 9:15, which is fifteen minutes past my bedtime. 

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Three Weeks In

Looking through my recent posts....and even so at the endless list of unfinished drafts that have accumulated in my Blogger homepage, it's obvious to me that the school year is definitely upon us. 

I'm two days away from submitting my first progress reports as a full-time math and algebra teacher. Tomorrow marks the second volleyball game for my 8th graders. Open House has come and gone and today I finished up grading the first official math test of the new school year. 

Despite the warm temperatures, fall is in full swing and life is hitting the high gear. 

Here in our home, we are chugging along, all of us adjusting to the new schedule in our own way.  Here are just a few of the highlights.

We had to buy a new car seat (Graco Nautilus) for Natalie to use in my car so that her feet and knees wouldn't hit the back of my seat. Craig also needed a seat in his car for the days when I just can't leave work before five o'clock. 

Yes. I know that I quit coaching n order to be at home more and not spend so much time at school....but if I'm going to take on the responsibility of teaching 8th grade math and algebra, then I'm going to do it right. And sometimes, doing it right means staying late after school to plan lessons, grade papers or give tutorials. 

I started back up with Bible Study in my little town, which is led by the uber talented Jen Wilkin, who happens to be the sister-in-law of one of my dearest friends, Emily. It's two hours of fellowship and faith with similarly minded women every Tuesday night....and it is wonderful. My brain loves a good challenge and as challenging as planning curriculum and managing the education of 150+ students is....I need something that is both challenging AND spiritually fulfilling. 

Natalie has been having night terrors lately which basically consist of her waking us up around midnight with screaming sobs, only for us to find her out of bed and huddled on the floor behind her door, dripping in sweat and shaking. No wonder the little dear has such a fear of bedtime! We had a "come to Jesus" about her bedtime antics the other night (after we had battled her whack-a-mole routine for an hour) and all I can say is THANK GOODNESS for language skills! She was able to tell us that she gets scared at night because of dreams....and because Mommy and Daddy get mad at her for being out of bed. Ouch. Hearing that come out of the mouth of your precious, innocent child is a swift kick in the gut. Needless to say, our bedtime routine AND expectations have changed. No more frustration (at least visible to her), no more closed doors, no more raised voices. Just loving cuddles, lots of stories, a cracked door and the hall bathroom light left on. Hopefully this will help soothe her troubled sleeping pattern. 

All through the past three weeks of school, I've been asked by students, co-workers and parents.....DO I MISS COACHING?  And at the end of the first week, as I exited the building at 4:45 to go have a relaxing evening with my family while the volleyball team practiced until well past 5:30....the answer was and still is a resounding NO. The truth is, if I had to have coached this year, I would have done it to the best of my ability because that's the kind of team player that I am.  But as I sat in the stands last week watching the first game for my 8th graders, I felt relieved. I now have the fun job - I sit, I watch, I cheer and I congratulate. That's it. I can marvel in their talent and tell them how proud I am of their accomplishments. I don't have to worry about playing time or skill development, inter-team squabbles or outsmarting the opponent. I just get to be encouraging and supportive. THAT is a role that I can wholeheartedly sink my teeth into. 

So I guess life is pretty good right now. Sure there are the daily stresses of juggling laundry, meals, housework, child care and some semblance of a romantic marriage, but when I lay my head on my pillow at night....I'm content. 

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Teacher Style Week 2

This week was all about repurposing items in my closet that I already had and combining them to make fun new outfits. The weather here in north Texas is still pretty warm (okay, HOT) so I'm sticking with capris and light fabrics for the time being. 

Blue faux denim tunic - bought last summer from Old Navy
White Capri pants - bought on sale from Ann Taylor last summer
Black rope sandals - Target
Hair - just straightened and normal

Wednesday - this outfit was probably the one I got complimented on the most and the hilarious thing is that I've had all these things FOREVER!
Cream flower shirt - found on sale at Ann Taylor a LONG time ago
Brown belt - bought at Kohl's two years ago
Black cotton skirt (with pockets!) - I have no idea where I got it but I know that I wore it while I was pregnant with Natalie because its soft and stretchy. 
Brown sandals - purchased a few years ago from Old Navy
Gold and pearl necklace - birthday present
Hair - parted down the middle and then pulled back and put half up. 

This outfit was a risk for me I wasn't sure how my breaking the "no black and brown together" would go, but I think because I neutralized them with the gold and turned out pretty cute! And even better than was super comfortable!

Pink pants - again, I found them on sale at Ann Taylor last year (apparently Ann Taylor is my go-to sport for cheap(er) Capri pants!)
Black striped shirt - um.....again, Ann Taylor outlet store at Grapevine Mills
Charcoal cropped jacket - found a few years ago at Kohl's
Black flats - bought last year from DSW
Turquoise necklace - Charming Charlie's 
Hair - "bangs" pulled up and pinned back in a mini-Snooki poof

Ahhhh Friday!  Jeans day means cropped skinny jeans (really just skinny jeans that shrunk but still fit everywhere else), my favorite FMS shirt (because it lists all the running awards we earned during my time coaching) and the comfiest of shoes - my blue canvas Toms. 
Hair - put up in a wet bun, straight out of the shower

Next week brings with it the highly anticipated start of middle school football...because it means an extra day of wind pants (disguised as Spirit Day) and/or a fun dress up day to show our support for the school. 

Friday, August 30, 2013

Teacher Style

School started this week and's been pretty good.  Of course, I've been a little stressed getting all my ducks in a row and making sure that I've covered all my bases for six different classes.  BUT.  I get to work at 7:45 and leave by 4:45.  Every single day.  This fact alone makes up for the fact that I now have to worry about Special Ed accommodations, preparing students for a state standardized test and having to manage the grades for over 150 students.  

Not once this week (even with volleyball try-outs going on) did I ever regret or second-guess my decision.  Nope.  There is no doubt in my mind or heart that I made the right decision, not just for my family but for ME.  

I love being in the classroom.  I love having my own space.  I love being a teacher.

But I also love wearing "real" clothes to work....and that's the most important thing, obviously.  So without further ado, let the teacher fashion show commence.

My teaser Instagram picture of my accessories for the first day of school.
Shoes: $40 at DSW
Bracelet: birthday gift
Earrings: birthday gift (from Francesca's boutique)
Necklace: surprise vacation gift from Craig

Here is my super professional outfit for the first day of school.
Deep royal blue dress from New York & Company for $15!  
(It was such a great deal that I bought it in black, naturally.)

Wednesday's outfit
Black dress capris from New York & Company - another great sale, they were two for one so I also have them in gray!
Shirt from The Limited
Necklace from Charming Charlie's
Heels....rescued from the depths of my closet and brought out of retirement.

Full disclaimer: No.  The heels did not last all day at school.  Here is the trick - heels in the hallway and slippers in the classroom.

All week long I got comments from students and teachers alike, all exclaiming how strange (but nice) it was to see me in "real" clothes and not athletic shorts and t-shirts.  And let's be honest - I still totally love my comfy clothes, but it's nice to pull out all my fabulous dresses, heels and jewelry from my closet and show them off.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

I Do.

To have and to hold, from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, until death do us part.

These are the words that Craig and I spoke to each other three and a half years ago in front of family and friends, prompted by the husband of my best friend.  I have no problem admitting that at the time, these vows were just words - the things I had to say in order to sign my marriage license.  It wasn't that I didn't take them seriously, it's that I had the naivete and general blind confidence of a blushing bride and almost newlywed.  I walked down that aisle and said those vows with an air of "no big deal...we GOT this."  

I'm not sure what I thought marriage was going to extension of the fairytale we lived in the months of dating that led up to our wedding?

But here I am.

It's three and a half years later and I'm trying to wrap my brain around that one little sentence we recited to each other on the day of our gorgeous outdoor wedding on a sunny day in March of 2010.

We've done the sickness and health bit.  I had an appendectomy, a c-section and a debilitating bout with Postpartum Depression.  Craig has had multiple knee scopes, a shoulder surgery and his gall bladder removed.  We have figured out how to nurse each other back to health pretty easy.

Then there is the better, worse, richer and poorer part.

That's where we are at right now.

I don't generally write about our marriage very much because, quite frankly...there's not a whole bunch to talk about.  We are generally agreeable with each other.  There aren't any major disagreements or outbursts.  We approach life as a team and rarely do we bicker or fight.

And we're definitely not bickering or fighting right now even though by all accounts, we certainly should be.

But we do have our backs against the wall.  We are the epitome of the old cliche, "between a rock and a hard place."  Tough decisions have been made and although it was the right was a difficult one.

One that affected my husband far more than it did me.

And that's where I'm learning about "for better or for worse, for richer or for poorer" part of marriage.  This is where I'm learning about my realm of control - I can't fight his battles for him, nor is it my job to do so.  But I can be supportive and appreciative.  I can listen when he needs to vent and I can give advice when asked.  I can remind him of the reasons I love him - his loyalty, generosity, sense of humor and dedication.

And of course, those sparkly blue eyes and gorgeous blond curls.

As with everything, this is simply a season in life and it too shall pass.  We will hold steadfastly to each other through this storm and then someday when the seas are calm, we will look back and understand that the storm was instrumental in creating a solid marriage.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Tuesday Nights

This was the scene in my bed tonight as Natalie watched The Lion King with the requisite blankie and stuffed animals. 

At one point Craig was also on the bed, curled up with our little girl in between us. He looked over at me, smiled and wryly said, "did you ever imagine that this would be your Tuesday nights?"

I know what answer he expected me to give. Something about my younger (wilder) days. About happy hours and control of the remote. Times spent with fabulous dinners, delicious drinks and all my friends.  For me to wax poetic about coming home to a quiet, peaceful apartment where my only plans included a drink and a good book. 

But that wouldn't be the truth. 

I looked back at him, glancing past my two pups and the curly headed girl immersed in her "baby lion" movie and I said, "yes, this is actually exactly what I imagined."

It's certainly not glamorous or fancy....but it's home.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Our Last Day...

We spent the last day of our summer vacation....

in pajamas.

watching multiple movies.

swimming in a chilly pool.

taking a nap on the couch with Angie.

getting Chili's To-Go.

sipping on a cocktail.

not making beds and not doing laundry.

And it was perfect.

We are ready for the school year.......I think.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

On the Eve of Thirty

So here I am on the edge of thirty...less than twelve hours away, actually.

I'm sitting in bed with a beautiful little girl who is curled up with her favorite stuffed animals under a blanket watching The Jungle Book.  My husband of three years is sitting on the computer downstairs, presumably working on something related to the sale of baseball cards on eBay.  I live in a spacious three bedroom, two and one half bath home that has an awesome playroom for my girl upstairs.  In the upcoming month I will enter my ninth year of teaching in the same district who hired me straight out of college.  Although not large, I have a wonderful group of friends with whom I share a unique bond with each and every one.

Ten years ago...

I was a single Pi Phi girl living in an apartment near the University of North Texas with my very good friend, Elaine.  There were lots of men in town, but none that were really worth keeping around for longer than a few months.  Elaine an I lived in a modestly furnished two bedroom, two bathroom apartment that was close enough to campus so that we could both walk to our classes.  I was about to start my junior year of college and was entering the true "education" portion of my college degree while also working as an after-school day care worker.  I knew the life I eventually wanted to live but I had absolutely no idea as to how I would get there.

But yet, ten years I am.  With everything I ever envisioned I wanted...sitting in the palm of my hand.  It was my degree in education at North Texas that led me to student teaching in my current district which ended up in my hired position at my old school.  That's where I met Craig which turned into a marriage and a transfer to my current job as well as the beautiful girl that I have the pleasure to call my own.

Looking back it's amazing to me the amazing adventures (and misadventures) that took place in a mere ten years.

As I sit here tonight, I am far more emotional about my 30th birthday than I ever imagined I would be.  I'm not sad and I'm not depressed but instead I'm overwhelmed at the many different facets of love I have in my life.

There is the unconditional love I feel from my parents - a love I truly didn't understand until I gave birth to Natalie.

There is the day-to-day love I share with Craig as well as the I'm-with-you-until-your-dying-day passion that I have for him.

I have my close group of friends, with each of whom I share the most unique and intimate relationship - in a different way, they each fill my soul with so much laughter, support and joy.

And then even on top of the love I have for my friends, it's amazing to me how much I adore their children...I didn't give birth to any of them, but yet my heart swells with pride and love when I am with them just the same as with my Natalie.

Then there are the puppy dogs who show such love and devotion to me, but who have absolutely no idea how much peace and comfort they also provide.

And then with my students...I never knew that I could love and care for the children of strangers as much as I do.  If you are in my school then I care about your education and your overall well-being.

Which brings me to Natalie.  I look at her and I am absolutely amazed.  She is not only incredibly gorgeous and smart but funny and athletic as well.  And I helped to create her.  What in the hell did I do in my life that was so awesome as to deserve such an amazing creature for a daughter?!

Above all, there is a God that has given me the gift and grace of life here on Earth.  He alone has provided me the brains the the brawn to go after what I wanted, whether it was a husband or a job...and the sensibility to know when to stop looking and just be content with what I was given.

So I guess that's all I have to say about my 30th birthday.  Thanks for all the love I've been shown in my life - hopefully I can repay it in my next 30 years.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Thirty for Thirty

On Wednesday I will turn here are thirty things you might not know about me!

1. I have only broken one bone in my life - my left forearm when I was five years old.  My middle brother shoved me head first into a trailer and I landed on my arm.

2. I hate mushrooms.  I think it has to do with the texture.

3. If I had to choose a last meal, I would have my mother cook me her full Thanksgiving feast complete with ham, cornbread dressing, gravy, mashed potatoes and green bean casserole.

4. At the end of my first full year in the classroom, I was one of three finalists for the district wide "New Teacher of the Year" award.

5. While I was in college (and even afterwards) I attended several midnight book releases and movie premieres of Harry Potter with my roomie at the time, Lauren.

6. My favorite sport to watch is football while baseball is so utterly boring to me.

7. When I was in 9th grade, my choir director called me an underachiever.  To my face.  In front of all my peers.

8. I only played volleyball in middle school because I hated being in off-season because all we did was run!

9. When I was very small, if you asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up, my answer was always, "a boy."

10. I slept with my favorite Cabbage Patch doll all through high school.

11. I've had braces three separate times - once in elementary school, once in junior high and then again during my sophomore year of college.

12. When I was in college, I was a member of the Pi Beta Phi sorority.  During my four years I served as Intramurals Chair (sophomore year) and Membership Chair (junior year) and then finally became a Rho Gamma (recruitment counselor) with my friend Chelsea, during rush my senior year.

13. When it comes to truly SERIOUS boyfriends...I've only had about three.  And I married the third one.

14. My favorite football player is Tim Tebow.  Don't hate.

15. I got stung on the cheek by a bee when I was in elementary school and my dad tried to "heal" it with bleach rubbed on the affected area.  I spent the entire summer with a big burn and scab on my cheek.

16. I have watched every single episode of every season of The Real Housewives of OC, Beverly Hills, New York and New Jersey.

17. When I graduated high school, I was six feet tall and 135 pounds.  One of those measurements is still true.

18. There are a lot of rules when I eat a meal - the most important being that my food does not touch.

19. In the past ten years, I have travelled to...Seattle, Antigua, the Bahamas, Florida, Maine, Las Vegas, Virginia, Oklahoma, London, Paris, Rome, Venice, Naples, Torino, Sorrento, Munich, Berlin and Amsterdam.

20. If given the choice, I would not wear pants.  Shorts, yes.  Pants, no.

21. My least favorite word is "moist."  It used to also be "panties" but now with Natalie running around in Ariel panties, that word has become more tolerable...almost to the point of cute.  Because a toddler's booty in panties is absolutely adorable.

22.  The family dachshund we had while I was growing up once bit me right above my left eye.  If you look closely, you can still see the scar.

23.  I am eight and eleven years younger than my brothers...but just as tall as they are - if not taller.

24. My dream concert would include performances from The Doors, Kings of Leon, the Beatles, U2, Madonna, Britney Spears, Justin Timberlake and Mumford & Sons.

25. If I could choose five people to host at my house for dinner, I would invite my grandma, Barack Obama, Bono and Jon Stewart.

26. I hate being the center of attention and all my bridal and baby showers totally stressed me out.

27. When no one else is in the car with me, I turn on T.I., Kanye and Jay-Z.  At full blast.

28. My mother is half Italian, half Cajun and speaks Italian, French and English fluently.  My father grew up in rural west Texas and went to college on a football scholarship.  They have lived in the same house longer than I have been alive.

29. If I had been born a boy, my name would have been Timothy Earl.

30. All through middle school and most of high school my goal was to go to A&M and become an architect.  After a college visit to Aggieland and a year spent working after-school care at the YMCA, I changed my plan and went to North Texas to become a teacher.

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Wednesday Morning Meltdown

Natalie threw it down today at gymnastics.

It was big, ugly and embarrassing.

And of course it all happened on the day her beloved Nonna came with camera in hand to watch Natalie do gymnastics.

And it was an epic, epic, EPIC fail.

Tears upon entering, then a refusal to do any sort of warm-up which led to me having to go into the gym area and sit against the wall so she would do the activity.  I wasn't pleased with her non-compliance and with having to be THAT mom sitting in the gym, but at least she wasn't crying anymore.

But then it came to the end of class.  Ugh.

She followed another little girl out of the gym for whatever reason and came to sit with me.  Shortly after sitting in my lap the class began gathering together for their end-of-class game which is always finished with a stamp on the hand for each gymnast.

Of course, she wanted to go back in to play the I let her.

But then she came right back out.

And then wanted to go back in.

Oh no.  I was having NONE of that so I looked her square in the eye and told her to make a choice - either go into the gym and play the game or put her shoes on to go home.  She ran excitedly back into the gym....and then promptly laid down on a mat with tears in her eyes.

Done.  I was done.

I marched in there, picked her up off the mat and informed her it was time to go home and that there would be NO stopping at Chick Fil-A today.  And if that didn't upset her enough, as I was putting on her shoes, she saw all the kids lining up to get their stamps.  Not upsetting in and of itself obviously, but she was absolutely pushed over the edge when I told her that she was not getting a stamp today.

Wherever you are right now as you read this...I'm sure you could hear her wails.  I was the WORST.  MOMMY.  EVER.  because I didn't let her get the stamp.  Was that a little harsh for a two-year-old?  Perhaps some people might say so, but in my world-view...if you don't do the work, then you don't get to reap the rewards.  Parenting for the next eighteen years compared to the next five minutes.  Sounds good on paper but sometimes the most difficult thing to enforce.

But it was so hard.  Because she was so outrageously angry.  And my mother was there to see the whole thing go down.  Natalie screamed on the way home - "Nastics!  Stamp!"  She was begging for a re-do - an opportunity to go back and do what she knows she is supposed to do.

The fit carried the entire way back home, into the house and didn't stop until Craig came home from running errands.  He was able to get her calmed down, allowed me time to eat dinner in relative solitude and then took her upstairs for a much needed nap.  By the time she finished her lunch and was heading to night-night there were lots of hugs, kisses and "I'm sorry, Momma" given out - obviously she was ready to move on from the morning's meltdown.  Me on the other hand?  I'm still shaking.  My jaw aches from being clenched and my legs feel like I just ran 10 miles because I was tensed up for the entire saga.

I felt (feel?!) like an utter failure as a parent.  And yes, I know that the other parents there have all been through similar tantrums like Natalie's,'s just different when it's YOUR child that's being carried out of the building screaming like a banshee and flailing like a fish washed up on shore.

One of the biggest things I have always struggled with in my life is my pursuit of perfection.  I expect it of myself, of others and now, apparently from Natalie.  Well, it's not that I expect HER to be perfect, but I expect her to behave appropriately because I'M "perfect" and instilling the right values and expectations in her.  So by that measure, I failed today because I didn't set her up for success or respond appropriately to her emotions in a way that would encourage her to finish the class.

I know, I know, I KNOW.  She's a toddler.  They do things like this.  It's just a phase.  We can't always control everything they do and we can only control our reactions to them.

I understand all that - heck, I even BLOGGED about that last sentence awhile back when I talked about technology.  But understanding it from an outsider's point of view and being right there in the thick of it are two entirely different things.

Of course after Craig got her down for a nap, he came downstairs to talk and I immediately swore off ever taking her to another gymnastics class FOREVER AND EVER, AMEN.  Because THAT'S how angry, frustrated and embarrassed I was at her behavior.

But in reality, I'm terrified.  I'm scared at how much I wanted for her to behave and be GOOD at gymnastics.  I'm completely aware of how neurotic I'm being about a two-year-old's extracurricular activity.  I get that I'm just a teensy bit insane for worrying this much about something that in the grand scheme of things will be terribly inconsequential.  But I'm afraid of how much worse it's going to get as I watch her grow up, try out for sports teams, get cut out from a group of friends, struggle with schoolwork...  It's not that I want to protect her from everything that is bad, but I want her to be the kind of kid that just naturally excels at stuff because I was that kind of person.  School, sports and friends came pretty easily to me.  Of course, there were bumps along the road but for the most part, I didn't struggle learning concepts, getting playing time or maintaining friendships.  I want that for her because from experience, it's a pretty sweet life to live.


I should probably relax and have a cocktail to take the edge off.

So in closing...she will be going to gymnastics next week.  It will be my 30th birthday so I might just let Craig take her while I go get my nails done.

But more than that, I think days like today are ultimately for the best.  It causes me to reexamine my own parenting decisions as well as the motivation from those decisions.  I'm forced to explore the reason WHY this incident bothered me so much - was it strictly from frustration, why did I feel embarrassed, what do I really expect from a toddler?  It's these questions that are going to help propel me to parent Natalie more thoughtfully and with a broader view of the type of woman I want to raise.  Of course I want her to be a remarkable young lady but I also know that if I put too much pressure on her that I will crush her spirit and cause such deep resentment from her to me.  As much as it is against my nature, I must step back and allow her the freedom and luxury of making a mistake and then learning from it in order to become a better person.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Age Is Just A Number

One week from tomorrow I will turn 30.  

And this does not cause me any concern.

My twenties have been absolutely amazing but I also know that life doesn't stop being amazing just because of a number change.

In the past ten years, I have...

Dated many of the wrong men in a quest to find the right man, but in the process I kept my friends highly entertained with my dating adventures.

Traveled to Europe three times - once with my parents, another with a high school girlfriend and the final time with my husband.

Gained a certain understanding of the many facets of L-O-V-E.

Lived on my own for two and a half glorious years of freedom, independence and lots and lots of partying.

Continued nurturing old friendships and created new ones that will last the upcoming years.

Adopted two dogs who desperately needed homes and have become such an integral and comforting part of my life.

Met, dated and married my best friend who keeps me giggling most days and safe all the time.

Coached and mentored countless number of girls through seven volleyball season.

Delighted in raising a daughter and discovering the different aspects of her sweet spirit everyday.

Been to the brink of self-destruction but determinedly fought my way back.

A few years ago I went to the 30th birthday of a friend of mine and everyone asked her the inevitable question - was she sad about turning thirty and leaving her twenties behind...

Her thoughtful answer has always stuck with me.

She talked about the turbulence of her twenties, the transition from college student, to teacher to wife and then to mother.  There was so much change and so many "who am I" questions to answer.  But about her thirties, she expressed that she knows who she is - she is a wife, she is a mother and she is a follower of Christ.  Her core being is stable and secure.


This is where I'm at.

I started my twenties as a frivolous college student, searching for the next hot guy and the next greatest party.  I struggled with the transition to the working world as a teacher - desperately trying to keep my weekend persona separate from my weekday responsibilities.  I met my husband, got tired of the bar scene and spent my weekends just hanging out and falling in love.  We bought a house, got married, had a daughter and weathered the storm of PPD.  

And I am.

On the doorstep to my thirties and I'm excited.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Let It Be

When it comes to that proverbial fork in the road, I have no problem choosing a path and then staying the course.  I will not look back nor will I second guess.  I trust my gut and stubbornly see it through even if the path I chose is riddled with snakes, shadows and stickers.  It might not be the path everyone else would have chosen and rarely is it the easiest path...but it's MY path and I'm always bound and determined to prove to people that there is a light at the end of any tunnel.

My life has always had a plan and a path to follow.  From going to college to getting a job and then settling down to get married and have a child.  I've checked off all the MAJOR life decisions that must be what comes next?

I feel like we are sitting in purgatory.  No path to follow and no course to take.  We're just sitting here stagnant and for the longest time, this is what I thought I wanted.  Well, I DO want my little family of Craig, Natalie and the pups but I'm not completely sold on the fact that the busy suburbs are where we are supposed to be.

And then you add in the weird place that Craig is in right now.  He is a wonderfully talented and incredibly intelligent basketball coach - he has the perfect mixture of a deep understanding of the more technical aspects of basketball and the ability to nurture, inspire and lead his girls to become not just strong basketball players, but good all-around athletes.  I love watching him coach because by knowing him so well, I can almost see the wheels turning as he paces the side line with his hands behind his back and his eyebrows furrowed.  But I'm not sure if he's completely satisfied with the career he has carved out for himself at this point in time.

This is what frustrates me.  I can't solve this problem for him.  I can't tell him what to do, how to do it or when he needs to do it.  

I hate feeling helpless.  I hate not having a plan.

Friday night as I was driving home from his basketball tournament, I turned on the Pandora on my iPhone and just prayed that God would put the perfect song in rotation - one that whose message would soothe my anxious soul and help me calm my frizzy brain.

This is what came blaring through the speakers.

I might have teared up a bit as "when you find yourself in times of trouble..." floated throughout my car.

Okay.  There were lots of tears.

So that is the message God wanted me to hear.  To LET.  IT.  BE.  To give Craig the time and space to figure out his own life while I just serve as his faithful and supportive wife.  

My heart calmed a bit.

And then a second thought occurred to me.  What a selfish and ungrateful person I am.  Here I am, about to embark on the dream job I had my sights set on when I graduated from college eight years ago. This math job is the result of thousands of prayers and mindful faithfulness over the past few years and I'm practically ready to throw it away with both hands because I want something different.

In that moment, I sat completely humbled in my car and remembered my place in this universe.  My job is not to make demands but instead to be grateful for the unbelievable gifts God has bestowed upon me. So I am shutting my mouth, opening my heart and waiting for God to unveil the next step in my family's His perfect time and with His unwavering grace. 

Back to School!

Apparently I've been posting about the new school year entirely too much on Facebook because I was called out by my fellow teachers to basically...shut the hell up about "back to school."  But what can I say?  I'm totally, genuinely, 100% excited about my new adventures in the classroom.  Of course I'm anticipating those moments when I'm sitting at my desk with my head in my hands and tears in my eyes, desperately wishing for the simpler days when all I worried about was a practice plan for volleyball.  I'm not under any illusions that this adventure I'm about to embark upon is going to be easy, carefree or devoid of any bumps in the road.

But for the past seven years I have started the year with a certain sense of dread - dreading the fact that I will, for the next two months, be required to arrive at school at 7:15 and on game nights I will not be leaving until 9:00 or so.  I'm just excited about having the CHOICE to leave at 4:15 if it's been a long day and I'm just ready to get the hell out of dodge and go see my family.

So in my excitement, I've been hitting up Pinterest to see what kinds of cool ideas I can start implementing in my own classroom this year.

Remind 101: An easy way to send out a mass text from an anonymous phone number to all my students and teachers about upcoming assignments, important dates or tests.

THINK: A great message for kids about their digital citizenship.

Teacher's Assistant Pro: An easy way to keep track of attendance, tardies and general behavior in my class.  Great for parent-teacher emails, phone calls and conferences - much easier than writing it all down!

Modpodge Printables: While coaching, I was the queen of clever sayings that made it easy for my girls to remember exactly what I expected from them.  This would be a great way to continue those sayings and bring them into the classroom.

Scrap Fabric Curtains: Oh yes...these are definitely going up in my room.  I am terrible at sewing so I think this will be MUCH easier for me to complete in order to add some pizazz to my classroom!

T-shirt Canvases: Tossing out my team t-shirts is going to be the HARDEST thing for me to do because with every t-shirt comes along memories of that year's team and games.  So instead of throwing them all out when they get worn, how cool would it be to display them around my room?

Albert Einstein Quote: This is one of my favorite quotes because I think it really emulates the direction modern education is going.  I HAVE to realize that every child is coming to us with such different abilities and it is my responsibility to make sure they are learning in a manner that helps them understand. 

Fair is NOT Equal: Again, another quote...but this one is super important for kids to learn.

Printable Binder Covers: I've got three fabulous girls heading up Student Council this year and I want to set the tone for how the year is going to go.  I'm putting together exec binders for the girls that will be kept in the StuCo room and since I've got those three girls - why not go super cute and girly with the covers?

I promise not everything I've got planned for the year involves cute decor and sayings - that's just all the fun stuff about being a teacher!

Friday, July 26, 2013

Online Shopping

I'm not that big of a clothes shopper to begin with, honestly.  I'm a shop-by-necessity kind of girl which is pretty much in line with my personality.  I like to see things in person and know that if I'm going to spend money on something that it's going to be a good, solid buy.  Since I've got a kind of unique body with such my long torso, small bust and athletic hips & thighs, I'm really hesitant to buy clothing items online that might not fit real great in person.  

In order for my to purchase an item of clothing, it has to be the right fit, the right price AND be totally versatile in my wardrobe.  By that standard, I don't have a TON of clothes in my closet but what I do have easily transitions from dress to casual wear and can be worn with a variety of layerable clothes and jewelry.  

But at the prodding of many of my friends AND the lure of great deals on fabulous products, I downloaded both Groupon and Zulily apps to my phone and began shopping.  At first I just perused the offers without ever really purchasing anything - it was more or less the excitement of window shopping without having to leave my house.  

But today I took a leap of faith and made not one, but THREE online purchases!

I'm still super leery of buying clothes for me through Zulily just because they don't have a return policy and I'm so particular about the fit of clothes on my long torso but you can't really go wrong with shoes...especially when they're only $15 each!  I'm going to need some basic and comfortable shoes for teaching that will go with a multitude of outfits from fall to winter and all the way into spring.
Tan flats go with everything and I really like the gold detail on the toe.

At first glance just another pair of plain silver flats, but I really like the spikes on the end that will add some umph when they stick out from under my dress pants.

The only thing that bugs me a little bit about Zulily is that they place their arrival time of products at around two weeks.  I know, I know...first world problems, right?

One of the perks about being a teacher and having the summers off is that I get to take advantage of weekday prices AND smaller crowds when going to do fun things with Natalie.  A few days ago I received an email from a friend inviting a large group of ladies and their littles to a variety of fun stuff she is doing with her sweet nieces.  Some of the stuff was a bit too "old" for Natalie (pedicures, Jonas Brothers concert) but a big room full of trampolines?!  Absolutely perfect for an active little gymnast like Natalie.  A mass email was sent out about a Groupon for 50% admission for two hours of jumping at Urban Air in Southlake and I figured this was the best time for me to bite the bullet and make a purchase through the app that I scan through every day.

It took me a little long to get things situated with purchasing the tickets and then making sure we were signed up through the Urban Air website for the correct time and date with our friends.  Trampolines is definitely Natalie's favorite time during gymnastics class so I know that she will be totally excited to have a room full of trampolines and tons of new friends to play with.

But I'll admit, I'm almost a little afraid of how much I'm going to enjoy these Zulily shoes because it will only empower me to do MORE online shopping!

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Adventures in Toddlerhood

Parenting an almost two and a half year old is sometimes like living in a perpetual hurricane.  There's always the calm that comes along with the eye of the storm, but it's an uneasy things are going TOO well and that in just a few short moments, the roof is about to be blown off your house and the entire Pacific Ocean will come crashing through the windows.

Craig and I have weathered the toddler storm fairly well so far, but with Natalie quickly gaining vocabulary and A MIND OF HER OWN (how dare she!), the storms we are experiencing have recently taken on a bit more...hilarity.


The other day I was craving not a glass of wine or a cold beer, but a cocktail.  Vodka and Sprite to be exact.  I also had to run to the grocery store and Natalie was tagging along so at the ripe old age of two and a half...she made her first trip to the liquor store.  Upon entering the store she saw all the rows of wine bottles and exclaimed, "Momma buy wine?"  Sheesh.

But the hilarity doesn't end there.  Oh no.  This was a VERY entertaining trip to the liquor store.

While I was perusing the vodka bottles she began to touch some of the merchandise and I admonished her, "no touching - we don't touch!"  She complied but shortly thereafter I picked up a bottle from the shelf and she was quick to remind me, "no touching Momma!"  Of course this was said with a hand on her hip and in her perfect Momma/teacher voice.  I looked at her skeptically, one eye raised and let her know that "I'm an adult so I can touch whatever I want."  Obviously unimpressed, she hiked up her skirt to show off her delicate Ariel panties and declared, "I an 'dult.  I a big girl!"



Bedtime with Natalie is probably my LEAST favorite part of the day.  She fights the good fight almost every single night and although I easily resist her pleas of "Momma lay down?" Craig is a big old softie and can't help but snuggle and cuddle and rock and pat Natalie whenever she wants and for however long it takes to get her to sleep.

But that's another topic of discussion entirely.

Tonight was no different with her wails of "no night-night" beginning as soon as Craig placed her into bed at 8:30 after having rocked and read two books.  Eventually the cries quieted down and we figured she had finally drifted off to sleep and we were free to pursue our late night adventures in reality television and selling baseball cards online.

Oh no.

At 9:30 we hear a little voice piping up from the room at the end of the hall.  "Daddy?  DADDY?!"

Sweet mother of pearl.  You have GOT to be kidding me.  What is she doing awake!?

Come to find out...she has been sitting in her rocking chair, reading books to herself by the light of her nightlight on her alarm clock.  For an hour.

So I coach Craig on what television's Super Nanny taught me to do.  Go into her room, leave the lights out and don't say a word while putting her gently back into bed with a loving pat.  Exit quickly and repeat if necessary.

Obviously she gets up and cracks open the door to her bedroom enough for her beady little eyes to see what's going on down the hall.  I turn the corner to face her door while simultaneously putting on my "Momma's not happy face."  She slams the door shut and all I hear are the rapid pattering of feet racing back to bed followed by the twang of the mattress coils as she leaps under the covers.

This happens twice.

Sneaky is not a word I would use to describe my two-year-old.


Dinner has lately become a case of Whack-a-Mole where Craig and I spend a large amount of time convincing Natalie to stay in her seat and eat her meal.  Perhaps it's a case of extraneous energy but she wants to be dancing, rolling and hopping while ingesting her carrots, strawberries and green beans.

Tonight was no different and after her second escape from and reluctant return to the table, I looked her in the eyes and told her that if she got up ONE.  MORE.  TIME.  that she would be done eating for the night.  Sure enough within minutes she was off and cavorting around the house so I pushed her plate to the sink as a sign that she was D-O-N-E with dinner and that Momma meant business.

As I was cleaning up the dishes I heard her patter of feet behind me and when I glanced back, a peculiar sight caught my eye.  Natalie standing in the corner of the dining room with her head down and her hands up under her chin.

Suspicious behavior, to say the least.

I went over and checked on her but even though her answers were mumbled...they were dripping with guilt and remorse.  But more importantly than that, she smelled delicious.  Far better than ANY two-year-old should smell at the end of a hot summer day.  And familiar.  Her scent triggered a memory so I searched the floors, looking for a strewn bottle of my lotion that she might have snatched from my purse.  

Nothing was amiss so I returned to the culprit for a deeper interrogation.  It didn't take much prodding until the truth escaped her lips, "soap - bathroom - sorry Momma."  

A-ha.  Sure enough, her hands were coated in whatever flavor of Bath and Body Works soap I have sitting on the counter in the downstairs 1/2 bath.  Since she had already punished herself by shoving her face into the corner, I just said, "whenever you think you're done with time-out, you may come and talk to me about this."

Bless her sweet heart.


But for all of her hijinks, her tantrums and her stubbornness...I adore her.  Every single inch of her - from the top of her curly, summer sun highlighted hair down past her belly which is a delightful mixture of lean, little girl and round little baby, through her brown and perpetually bruised legs and all the way to her little toddler toes.

I just love her.  Everything that she is and even the things that she is not.

Watching Kate and William display their precious bundle of joy to the world today stirred up fond and emotional memories in me.  Sure, it was only a few years ago, but I know the mixture of emotions that goes along with holding the most innocent of gifts in your arms, terrified of screwing it all up but simultaneously excited for the journey you are about to take.

This season that we are in right now...this is the season I imagined when I was pregnant.  The times when Craig and I would be able to giggle and glance at each other with that look that only two people can share about their child.  No one can love her like we do.  No one will know her like we do.

When we look at this little girl we see ourselves, the generations that came before and the future stretched out in front of us.

I see my grandmother's gray-blue eyes paired with my wide, genuine grin.

From her head sprout Craig's curly blond locks that hang over her olive brown skin that's so obviously inherited from the Italian side of my family.

There's her long and lean body and I am no longer ashamed of being tall and athletic - I am proud.  I created her.  I created the body with which she runs, jumps, gallops and rolls.

And then there are the pieces of her that are unique and devoid of any family relation.  The moments that are purely NATALIE...those are the ones that I delight in the most because it allows me to see the independent individual Craig and I created.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

The Princess Complex

As Natalie quickly sheds all signs of babyhood and sprints towards her preschool years, Craig and I are finding ourselves swimming through uncharted waters as we begin to dip into the Disney princess pond.

Apparently, there are people out there that have a lot to say about a little girl's obsession with princesses and everything pink or sparkly.  It's damaging to their self-esteem, one says.  Another bemoans the fact that girls are being set up for unrealistic relationship expectations.  And then there is the camp that believes it shortchanges the capabilities of young women.

And I think to myself...they're just movies.  Cartoon characters on a screen, acting out a pretty predictable story.

I had no idea the beloved movies of my youth were so controversial in today's parenting expert and feminist circles.  But then again, that was the 80s and I do believe that the movie and character marketing scheme was not quite the economical juggernaut back then that it is today.

Sure, I had an Ariel nightgown and played mermaids in the pool with my best-friend Kate....but that's kind of where our obsession stopped.  We understood that the movie we loved to watch was just that - pure entertainment.  It was something fun to watch and use to play imaginatively, but certainly not a lifestyle to which we aspired to live.  Today there are aisles of toy stores devoted to everything pink, sparkly and princessy.  But just because there are those toys available, it doesn't mean that I have to purchase them for my daughter.

I guess my issue with the backlash against Disney princesses is this - why are these critics so quick to underestimate and devalue the importance of the parents in the molding of a young girls self-esteem, values and strength of character?

My views of marriage as a partnership between two people with a deep love and profound trust for each other did not evolve out of memorizing the lines to every song in The Little Mermaid or Beauty and the Beast.  No.  I watched my parents interact every single day in my home.  I saw my father joke playfully with my mother in the kitchen and followed every gentle tease with a sweet kiss on her cheek.  I smelled my mother's Chanel No. 5 perfume as she put on the finishing touches of her outfit for a special night out with my father.  I witnessed years of love, devotion and compromise despite sick children, aging parents and personality differences.

In short, I didn't believe in the fictional "happily ever after" because I was living the real life fairy-tale ending by being a product of my parents love for each other.

When children are so small and impressionable, parents should still be in control of the household.  I set the tone for when we watch movies and the take-away message that Natalie receives.  I can either choose to teach her that women are weak and must have a man to rescue them or I can show her that women are completely capable beings that (if they want) can happily accept a man's company in her life.  I can allow her to be fixated on the prettiness of a princess, or the obvious luxury she enjoys...or I can reinforce the fact that movies are works of fiction and that a life filled with love, respect and joy is worth far more than any beautiful dress or fancy home.  I refuse to give up the power of influence over my daughter to any cartoon character or marketing scheme in the aisles of Target.

So for the time being we are keeping the occasional Disney princess flick as part of our movie library.  A little bit of fantasy combined with catchy tunes and an irresistible love story can be good for a girl and her momma.